Manchester City 4 Aston Villa 0
Balotelli sinks the Villa
Tuesday 28th December 2010 : GYKO at the
It was one of
those days, for Manchester City, when everything clicked. There was
even a rare smile from Mario Balotelli on his most satisfying day
yet for his new club, the scorer of a hat-trick after being
entrusted with Carlos Tevez's place. Roberto Mancini's side were
rampant, full of hard running and inventive forward play, on another
painful day for an Aston Villa side who appear to be in freefall.
Villa were obliging opponents for a team of City's ambitions and
there was little respite for Gérard Houllier's side.
The first three goals arrived inside the opening 27 minutes and,
after that, it was an exercise in damage limitation for a club who
have now lost five of their past six league games. Balotelli's
hat-trick goal, his second penalty of the afternoon, rounded off
City's biggest home win of the season and, at the final whistle, the
league table was immediately flashed up on the large screen to show
Mancini's men at the top. On this evidence they can be regarded as
authentic challengers, although they will be fortunate to face
another side as vapid and rudderless as Villa, who were subjected to
derisive cries from the away section.
Long before the end Villa's supporters had resorted to dark humour,
celebrating a corner as if they had scored and cheering with ironic
"olés" when a move of half a dozen passes was put together. But
there was anger, too, and the strength of feeling against Houllier
is clearly building, only three months after his appointment.
"You're not fit to wear the shirt," the fans sang. There were other,
more abusive chants, directed personally at the manager.
City have had a few of those days themselves, but they seem a long
time ago now. Balotelli put them on their way in the eighth minute
after Eric Lichaj, using both arms, had brought him down for the
first penalty. His second was a tap‑in after Brad Friedel had
blocked David Silva's shot and, in between, Joleon Lescott scored
City's first headed goal of the season from Adam Johnson's corner.
The game was effectively over with not even half an hour gone.
Villa had legitimate complaints that Lescott's effort had not gone
over the goal line before Barry Bannan headed it clear, but theirs
was not a performance that attracted sympathy and, to give them
their due, they did not dwell on any misplaced sense of injustice.
It was a bad decision, but there was also an argument that Lichaj
ought to have been shown a red card for the penalty. The simple
truth was that Villa were abysmal, low on confidence and effort, and
it was a surprise in many ways that City did not add to their total
once Marc Albrighton had fouled Johnson to give away the penalty for
The Italian now has eight goals in 11 appearances for City, which
goes a long way to explaining why Mancini is willing to put up with
the stresses and strains the striker occasionally brings to his
workplace. After his first goal there was even the sight of his
team-mates, led by Nigel de Jong, imploring him to smile. Balotelli
duly obliged after making it 3-0 – but only briefly.
The paradox was that he was often on the fringes of the match and
the man-of-the-match award went to Silva, even though he had been
substituted with half an hour to play. Balotelli could also be seen
in the final minutes asking Mancini if he could come off the pitch
and, at the final whistle, he headed straight down the tunnel
without acknowledging the supporters or claiming the match ball. The
man is an enigma, but Mancini will not mind too much if this
brooding, mysterious character can continue to ease what, at times,
has been an over-reliance on Tevez.
The real problems are with Villa, and their supporters may not be
overly impressed to learn that John Carew had ruled himself out
because he did not think he was fit enough after travelling back to
Norway for Christmas and getting stuck in the snow.
"We are, definitely," Houllier said when he was asked whether Villa
were now in a relegation battle, adding that he had not heard the
supporters singing for his removal. "The problem is in the team; I
thought the fans were fantastic. But we need to turn the corner.
It's a really big job and the players know we're going through a
Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Zabaleta, De Jong (Bridge 77mins),
Vieira, Yaya Toure (Jo 63mins, Silva (Milner 58mins), Balotelli, A.
Given, Tevez, Boateng, and Barry
Friedel, Lichaj, Collins, Cuellar, Warnock, Abrighton (Delfounesco
57mins), Petrov, Reo-Coker (Pires 81mins), Downing, Agbonlahor,
Bannan (Delph 57mins)
Clark, Guzan, Osbourne, Herd
Warnock (18 mins), Lichaj (69mins)
Michael Oliver (Northumberland)
Newcastle United 1 Manchester City 3
Back on Track
Sunday 26th December 2010 : Steven Palin for
GYKO at St James Park
Who says you cannot win anything wearing snoods? Well muffled
against the bitter Tyneside cold Manchester City may have been but
all the neck warmers and gloves in northern England could not
disguise their ruthless incision as they reasserted their title
credentials in chillingly effective fashion.
All in all it proved the happiest of anniversaries for Roberto
Mancini, who took charge of City for the first time on Boxing Day
2009. The Italian was rewarded for 12 months' endeavour with a rare
smile from Carlos Tevez, newly reconciled to life at Eastlands –
possibly, even to the idea of being substituted – after the visiting
captain's late replacement by Mario Balotelli.
At that juncture the Argentinian's second goal of the afternoon had
effectively secured the gritty win which leaves City one place off
the Premier League summit.
It is only Mancini's second English Christmas but even he must have
been taken aback by the generosity of Newcastle United's welcome
presents. The first arrived courtesy of Tim Krul, the Dutch
goalkeeper paying a heavy price for a poor piece of opening-minute
footwork which saw his attempt to play the ball gleefully
intercepted by Tevez. Alert to an unexpected possibility, Gareth
Barry sprinted down the left, Tevez perfectly delayed his pass and
Barry's first-time left-foot shot resulted in the ball dinking
beyond Krul and into the bottom corner. From that moment Barry
soared in confidence, enjoying a fine game.
Alan Pardew's new side had barely regrouped before they were two
down. This time the normally reliable, and subsequently impressive,
Cheik Tioté conceded midfield possession to Tevez. Spotting James
Milner, back at a former home, free on the right, City's captain
played him in before accelerating into position to connect with the
England winger's cross. It proved a good one, enabling a stretching,
sliding Tevez to flick out his left foot and sweep a delicate low
volley past Krul. It was his 11th Premier League goal of the season.
By way of slightly unhygienic celebration the Argentinian pulled a
baby's dummy out of his sock and stuck it in his mouth.
Andy Carroll is said to be high on Mancini's January shopping list
but the centre forward, whom Pardew says is not for sale, hardly
boosted his valuation by heading straight at Joe Hart after meeting
Wayne Routledge's cross when unmarked. Carroll, though, then gave
Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott an exhausting work-out as,
admirably refusing to fold, Newcastle rallied with Joey Barton and
Kevin Nolan leading a rearguard action. Carroll threatened to score
from almost every delivery into the box and Mancini will have been
grateful that Milner's diligent efforts in tracking back against
Jonás Gutiérrez and José Enrique limited the striker's service from
Suddenly tackles were flying in all over the place with a
contretemps between Tioté and Yaya Touré proving emblematic.
Signficantly Yaya Touré's advanced role in the visiting 4-2-3-1
formation was making life harder than usual for Tioté.
Encouragingly for Mancini, Tevez and friends gave as good as they
got. The snood count may have been 4-1 in City's heavily gloved
favour but their physical edge made a mockery of suggestions that
warm necks and hands necessarily spell "soft".
Even City's notoriously hard-to-please manager applauded
enthusiastically when Tevez, playing like a man possessed, tracked
back and cleanly dispossessed Gutiérrez thanks to a wonderfully
timed interception. Similarly undaunted by Newcastle's robust
response, David Silva repeatedly used his superior vision and
control to initiate counterattacks, on one occasion selling
Routledge a wonderful dummy.
Pardew waited until the hour before making a change and finally
replacing Routledge with Nile Ranger as he shifted from 4-5-1 to
4-4-2. Meeting fire with fire worked, Carroll soon scoring after
wrong-footing Lescott at a Barton corner and thumping a header
beyond Hart's reach.
Immediately City looked nervous, particularly when the onrushing
Nolan poked Ranger's headed flick tantalising wide. Then Mancini got
a slightly lucky, if not entirely undeserved, break as the
substitute Adam Johnson slipped the ball to Tevez. Following some
fancy footwork he unleashed a curling shot which took a hefty
deflection off Fabricio Coloccini's backside en route beyond Krul.
Almost immediately Mancini withdrew Tevez, introducing Balotelli,
wearing an outsize snood, in his stead as captain and manager showed
off their recent rapprochement with smiles and an embrace. Refusing
to capture the mood, Balotelli – whom Mancini wants to smile more –
collected a stupid booking for dissent but this was an afternoon
when not one team-mate had set him a bad example. Maybe Mancini is
building a real team after all.
Newcastle Krul, Simpson, Steven Taylor, Coloccini,Jose Enrique,
Routledge (Ranger 60), Barton, Tiote, Gutierrez,Nolan, Carroll.
Subs Not Used: Harper, Williamson, Guthrie, Perch, Smith, Best.
Goals: Carroll 72.
Man City Hart, Boateng, Lescott, Kompany, Kolarov, Barry,De Jong,
Milner, Toure Yaya (Vieira 83),Silva (Adam Johnson 69), Tevez
Subs Not Used: Given, Richards, Zabaleta, Jo.
Booked: Silva, Lescott, Hart, Balotelli, Adam Johnson.
Goals: Barry 2, Tevez 5, 81.
Ref: Chris Foy (Merseyside).
Manchester City 1 Everton 2
Toffee suckers again
Monday 20th December 2010 : GYKO at the
Manchester City's failure to reach the top of the Premier League was
the least of it. This loss raised doubts as to whether they are
equipped with the toughness of mind necessary to get to the pinnacle
and stay there. The flaws were seen everywhere. They were drab when
the onus was on them to take command, still passive as Everton
snatched a second goal and absurd when Kolo Touré was sent off for
two cautionable offences in quick succession at the very end.
City will complain about penalty appeals rejected by the referee,
Peter Walton, but in each case there was a question as to whether
there had been rashness or intent in the handball. Everton had
pulled off a feat that must be admired all the more because they had
arrived without a victory in seven games and also had to withstand
the dismissal of their forward Victor Anichebe in the second half.
So far as City are concerned, this outcome should make them worry
about their sparse scoring rate at home. Carlos Tevez could do
almost nothing to enhance it on an occasion that was intended to
speak of a renewal in his relationship with the club. He had
withdrawn his transfer request and, in the spirit of concord, been
allowed to retain the captaincy.
It is not all that uncommon for any striker to end a match without a
goal, but there must have been a yearning to see Tevez confirm by
his deeds that City is where he sees his future. However, the
principal difficulty with the Argentinean is that they cannot afford
to see him have a humdrum match. No other striker on the books has
either the hunger or the technique to score repeatedly.
It was an apt assessment of their condition that the City goal was
accidentally put into his own net by a blameless Phil Jagielka in
the 72nd minute. The passing by David Silva and the substitute Adam
Johnson had been convincing then, but the drive from Yaya Touré
still needed the assistance of that ricochet off the centre-back.
With 13 minutes to go, City almost levelled even though parity was
more than they deserved. After Mario Balotelli hit a post, Howard
beat him to the loose ball and then got himself in the path of a
The Argentinean caught the eye then and he can legitimately argue
that his team-mates caused too little mayhem. It may have been an
indifferent showing by Tevez but little was done to bring out the
best in him. City could not get over the shock of the boldness
Everton brought with them to Eastlands.
The goals scored so early in the night left City bemused as well as
wounded. Apart from considering the harm inflicted they must have
been incapable of understanding how little they had done to
interrupt the visitors. After four minutes, a delivery from the left
by Leighton Baines went deep to Seamus Coleman and he turned it into
the centre for Cahill to score with a header.
City might have fatalistic about the circumstances of the second
goal in the 19th minute. They were down to 10 men since the
right-back Pablo Zabaleta was off the field so that a cut to his
head could be bandaged. Nonetheless, Everton's move was of such
fluency that it would be churlish to insist that the goal had come
through weight of numbers alone.
Baines made ground on the left and his delivery was laid off by
Anichebe to Cahill, with the midfielder setting up Baines to
complete the move he started by bending a finish into the far post
with his right foot.
It had been so exquisite a piece of play that it looked as if it
were Everton rather than City who possessed limitless riches. Some
in the home ranks would have started to recall a pair of defeats to
David Moyes's team in the league last season. Indeed this was a
fourth successive Everton victory here. They might have been
thinking, too, about their own bluntness in attack, with just eight
league goals scored at home before this match.
Everton, however, had been in difficulties of late and that was
reflected in the fact that Moyes preferred Anichebe despite the fact
that the striker has rejected a new contract offer and was booed
when he came on in the goalless draw with Wigan. Anichebe's
rehabilitation had made great progress by half-time, but he was to
prove reckless even if Walton was draconian.
Having been booked for impeding Joe Hart in the 55th minute Anichebe
still made a needless challenge on Zabaleta and was dismissed.
Nothing, all the same, will dampen Everton's joy. For City, the
frustration and doubt about the progress of their enterprise will
wash over them once more.
Man City Hart, Zabaleta, Toure, Kompany, Kolarov, Milner (Adam
Johnson 46), Toure Yaya, Barry, Silva, Tevez,Balotelli (Jo 83).
Subs Not Used: Given, Richards, Wright-Phillips, Boateng,
Sent Off: Toure (90).
Booked: Kompany, Toure, Barry.
Goals: Jagielka 72 og.
Everton Howard, Neville, Jagielka (Hibbert 79), Distin, Baines,
Coleman (Saha 76), Rodwell, Fellaini,Osman (Bilyaletdinov 75),
Subs Not Used: Mucha, Beckford, Gueye, Yakubu.
Sent Off: Anichebe (60).
Booked: Fellaini, Anichebe.
Goals: Cahill 4, Baines 19.
Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).
Juventus 1 Manchester City 1
Jo Makes his Point
Thursday 16th December 2010 : Antonio Fuchina
in Italy for GYKO
In the end, there was a
satisfactory outcome for Manchester City, and Roberto Mancini will
hope it is the same tomorrow when he is due to meet Carlos Tevez for
the first time since the Argentinian went public with his wish for a
transfer. Before heading for the airport the City manager confirmed
Tevez would play against Everton on Monday. "Why not?" he asked.
Mancini also made it clear that he would seek a swift conclusion to
the dispute with City's leading scorer, though he will be praying he
is back in time for the meeting after the team's plane was stranded
in Turin last night. "It's important we finish it quickly," he said.
"I haven't had this situation before but it could happen at any
club, in England or Italy, and I want to speak to him to understand
what he wants to do. We do not want it to continue like this and I
think this can finish in the next two days."
It promises to be a challenging 48 hours but Mancini was a happy man
as he left the Stadio Olimpico, threatening to strike one journalist
with his microphone when the subject returned to Tevez, and
proclaiming his satisfaction with his team's performance. Jô's
77th-minute equaliser ensures they qualify for the next stage as
group winners – an achievement that, in theory, should carry its
rewards when the draw is made in Switzerland tomorrow.
Niccolò Giannetti's goal, late in the first half, had opened up the
possibility that Mancini's team could finish as runners-up to Lech
Poznan and potentially face one of the four stronger teams to drop
down from the Champions League. Yet City's travelling supporters
were rewarded for braving the sub-zero temperatures when Jô scored
with a clinical left-foot drive from Adam Johnson's pass.
The Brazilian seemed to have already scored what should have been a
legitimate equaliser only for his close-range effort to be
disallowed for offside and, in terms of creating chances, the draw
was the least that City deserved on a night when there were vast
expanses of empty seats inside this old stadium and little to remind
us why Juventus are one of the great names of European football.
There was also another demonstration of some of the most
disreputable aspects of Italian football culture when a section of
fans aimed monkey noises at Patrick Vieira, a returning former
Tevez was absent here because City had qualified and Mancini had
decided to leave most of his first-team picks in Manchester. This
was an evening for experimentation, with Micah Richards captaining
the side, Shay Given recalled in place of Joe Hart and a frontline
of Jô and Alex Nimely, a 19-year-old making his first start.
City had the more penetrative edge in the opening exchanges,
Richards close to setting up Jô inside the first minute and Alex
Manninger, with a full-length save, preventing Mohamed Sissoko from
scoring an own goal.
Yet City still had to cope with the enduring quality of Alessandro
Del Piero and, shortly before half-time, this wonderfully talented
footballer, now 36, evaded Richards inside the penalty area. His low
cross picked out Giannetti, darting in front of Dedryck Boyata to
divert the ball past Given with a clever finish off the outside of
There were long spells, though, when Juventus seemed to be merely
going through the motions and City were the stronger side for the
last halfhour. As well as Jô's disallowed goal, Mancini was
convinced they should have been awarded a penalty when a Shaun
Wright-Phillips shot struck the defender Giorgio Chiellini's arm.
Shortly afterwards Johnson, increasingly prominent as the game wore
on, slipped a pass into Jô and the striker took one touch to open an
angle for himself to drive a low shot into the bottom left corner of
Manninger's goal. "We want to go all the way," Mancini said
afterwards – and that means with Tevez.
Juventus Manninger, Grygera, Legrottaglie, Chiellini, Traore (Boniperti
66), Krasic (Camilleri 56), Sissoko, Felipe Melo, Pepe, Giannetti (Buchel
79), Del Piero.
Subs Not Used: Storari, Iaquinta, Bonucci, Giandonato.
Booked: Felipe Melo, Sissoko.
Goals: Giannetti 43.
Man City Given, Boateng, Richards, Boyata, Bridge, Wright-Phillips (Chantler
90), Milner, Vieira, Adam Johnson, Jo, Nimely (Zabaleta 61).
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Kay, Mee, Ibrahim, Elabdellaoui.
Goals: Jo 76.
Ref: Istvan Vad (Hungary).
West Ham United 1 Manchester City 4
Saturday 11th December 2010 : Dan Barton for
GYKO at Upton Park
Roberto Mancini made a swift
exit from east London on Saturday evening, so he could travel to
Ancona and see his ailing father, Aldo. As he landed in his
hometown, the Italian would have known of Carlos Tevez's transfer
request. The fallout will be unavoidable and perhaps defining for
the Manchester City manager upon his return to England tomorrow. He
must wonder when the internal strife will ever end.
There have been punch-ups on the training ground and arguments in
the dressing room for Mancini to deal with since he arrived at
Eastlands 12 months ago but none of that compares to the desire of
his captain to leave because of supposed home sickness. City have
rejected Tevez's request but they undeniably face a struggle to keep
hold of the 26-year-old Argentinean, who has scored 33 goals in 50
league game since arriving from Manchester United in July 2009.
It is in this context that comments made by Brian Kidd, Mancini's
assistant, following City's victory here were significant. "There
are definitely comparisons between the boss and Sir Alex
[Ferguson]," said Kidd, who worked alongside the United manager as
he established a golden era at Old Trafford. "He [Mancini] is a
winner and has a great will to win. He was disappointed we lost a
goal [against West Ham], because he is never satisfied, which is
great to see. I have been there with Sir Alex."
City supporters may squirm at the thought of Mancini being the new
Ferguson but if that is the case then now is the time for him to do
his best impression of the Scot. After all, total discipline is
required of a team who even in the process of gaining the win that
put them joint-top of the Premier League were characterised by the
angst of Mario Balotelli, who replaced the suspended Tevez up front
and spent most of his time throwing his arms in the air and punching
goalposts in frustration. He was substituted by Mancini, the Italian
aware that his compatriot had been booked for dissent and was in
danger of being sent off for a second time in five appearances for
Balotelli reacted by stomping down the tunnel, making it two matches
in a row in which a City striker has shown his fury at being
replaced. Tevez was the first, in the win against Bolton Wanderers
last week, and it is he whom Mancini must deal with first.
Here in particular Ferguson's example is one Mancini would be
advised to follow. The United manager drew admiration for the way in
which he reacted to his own principal striker, Wayne Rooney, asking
for a transfer in October and then persuaded the 25-year-old to
stay, albeit with the help of a pay rise. It will, then, be
interesting to see if Mancini uses his press conference before
Thursday's Europa League tie against Juventus to "do a Fergie" and
paint City as the victim of a disloyal, ungrateful player.
It will frustrate the 46-year-old that Tevez is overshadowing City's
progress on the pitch. They are undefeated in the league since 30
October, with this victory among their most emphatic. West Ham
simply could not cope with their aggression in midfield and fluidity
in attack, where Yaya Touré and David Silva excelled.
Touré's placing behind a lone striker remains a curious one but he
showed great attacking instinct here, giving the visitors the lead
with a rasping drive before rampaging into the penalty area on 73
minutes and hitting a shot that deflected off Robert Green to make
it 2-0. Adam Johnson, who came on for Balotelli, made it 3-0 after
collecting a sumptuous pass from Silva.
While the other title contenders face each other over Christmas and
the new year, City have a string of fixtures which appear more than
winnable. Little wonder that the squad see the period as a crucial
one. "There are massive games coming and we have a big chance to get
close [to the top]," said Kolo Touré. "We want to focus really well
at this time."
Focus is also needed at West Ham. Their only solace here was James
Tomkins' late consolation goal. They remain bottom of the league and
short of confidence and quality. Their manager, Avram Grant,
believes both can be rectified with investment during the January
transfer window and he has even provided the club's owners, David
Gold and David Sullivan, with a sum that could save the club from
"With £10m I can do a lot," said Grant. "We need additional players,
dangerous players – there are a lot of decisions to make. If the
owners gave me £10m that would be great."
Given their resources, City may well also spend next month, but
those associated with the club will hope it is not done according to
the need to replace their most influential player.
West Ham Green, Faubert, Tomkins, Upson, Ben-Haim, Barrera (Cole
71), Spector, Parker, Stanislas (Dyer 65), Piquionne (Hines 80),
Subs Not Used: Stech, Reid, Boa Morte, Kovac.
Goals: Tomkins 89.
Man City Hart, Boateng, Toure, Kompany, Zabaleta, De Jong, Barry,
Jo, Toure Yaya, Silva (Milner 86), Balotelli (Adam Johnson 61).
Subs Not Used: Given, Richards, Santa Cruz, Lescott, Vieira.
Booked: Balotelli, De Jong, Zabaleta.
Goals: Toure Yaya 30, Green 73 og, Adam Johnson 81.
Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).
Manchester City 1 Bolton Wanderers 0
City Turn up the Heat
Saturday 4th December 2010 : GYKO at the
photographic evidence from their training ground, Manchester City
are still pulling their punches. They created enough chances to win
this game by a handsome margin, with David Silva alone doing enough
to win three or four games, but managed to find ways of missing most
of them and ended up clinging on for victory over their
cash-strapped neighbours with 10 men. There was not a lot to choose
between the sides by that stage, and as Owen Coyle conceded, it was
not one of Bolton's better displays.
"We never reached the heights we have shown we are capable of this
season," the Bolton manager said. "We hardly gave ourselves the best
start by conceding a soft goal so early, but we came back into it."
Missing from City's squadsheet was Jérôme Boateng, one half of the
Carrington sparring match, while Mario Balotelli, the other
protagonist, played the whole game but only briefly came to life in
the second half. Once again City were indebted to Carlos Tevez, for
his 10th goal of the season, even if the story of the game was the
number of opportunities strikers missed. "We must improve," Roberto
Mancini said. "We had maybe 15 chances to score and we deserved to
win by three or four goals. I think if I had played in the game I
would have scored two or three."
City have been waiting two months for a home league goal, and when
one arrived as early as the fourth minute the crowd settled back in
anticipation of a feast. It did not quite work out that way,
however, and poor finishing and decision-making meant Tevez's early
breakthrough was all that separated the sides at the end. Tevez had
already seen a shot saved by Jussi Jaaskelainen by the time Yaya
Touré sent him clear after three and a half minutes, the midfielder
winning the ball on the halfway line and taking Gary Cahill out of
the equation with a perfectly placed pass behind the centre-half.
Tevez stayed onside to do the rest, muscling on to the ball and
tucking an early shot past the goalkeeper.
Tevez and Silva were incensed midway through the first half when a
goal was unnecessarily chalked off for offside, and the City captain
earned himself a booking and suspension by booting the ball away in
disgust when his next challenge was deemed illegal. Yet for the most
part City only had themselves to blame. Tevez produced a tame shot
from Silva's cut-back, then managed only the feeblest of miskicks in
front of goal when Aleksandar Kolarov teed him up from the opposite
flank. Inbetween, Pablo Zabaleta missed the clearest opening of all,
and though Bolton rarely bothered Joe Hart they turned round still
The visitors could have drawn level at the start of the second half
when Kevin Davies connected sweetly with a Sam Ricketts cross but
sent his volley a couple of feet too high.
City were better in the second half, without being in any way
deadly. Zabaleta brought a save from Silva's pass before Balotelli
came into the game, hitting a post when he should have done better,
then seeing a sharper effort blocked by Cahill. Tevez wasted another
invitation from Silva before the Spain striker took matters into his
own hands and shot against the bar.
Hart almost brought Bolton back into it when he spilled a free-kick
and needed Vincent Kompany to tidy up on the line, and the final 12
minutes became even more interesting when Kolarov picked up two
bookings in quick succession, the second for a two-footed challenge
Looking on the bright side, as is customary here, entering December
three points off the top and just a point behind Chelsea is not a
bad position to be in, and it was even being argued that City would
have lost this game last season. "I still expect Chelsea to win the
title," Mancini said. Perhaps he had better find his boots and make
a comeback. Like one of Tevez's goal attempts, the title could go
Man City Hart, Zabaleta, Toure (Lescott 31), Kompany, Kolarov,Toure
Yaya, De Jong, Barry, Silva (Richards 84),Tevez (Milner 90),
Subs Not Used: Given, Adam Johnson, Vieira, Jo.
Sent Off: Kolarov (79).
Booked: Toure Yaya, Tevez, Kolarov.
Goals: Tevez 4.
Bolton Jaaskelainen, Ricketts, Cahill, Knight, Robinson,Lee (Moreno
82), Mark Davies, Muamba, Petrov (Taylor 63),Elmander (Klasnic 77),
Subs Not Used: Bogdan, Steinsson, Blake, Cohen.
Booked: Kevin Davies, Knight.
Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).
Manchester City 3 Salzburg 0
Wednesday 1st Dec 2010 : GYKO at the COMSTAD
Mario Balotelli scored a brace
to help Manchester City claim a place in the next stage of the
And they emphasised their credentials in the process as the double
was completed against the Austrian champions, meaning City qualified
for the last 32 in February with a game to spare. Former Inter Milan
striker Balotelli, who arrived in the summer for £24million, scored
either side of half-time with Adam Johnson also finding the target.
It was almost like a training session for City given their
possession and they should have been more than one goal to the good
at the interval.
They made their intentions clear as early as the third minute when
Patrick Vieira - one of eight changes to the side - flicked the ball
on to Jo only for Franz Schiemer to make a timely challenge.
Balotelli was quickly into the game and cut in from the left but
sent his effort over the bar before he got on the end of a cross
from Johnson in the ninth minute. The ball broke to Joleon Lescott,
who was crowded out. City should have taken the lead in the 15th
minute when Vieira released Balotelli with superb through-ball. He
raced on, only for goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel to boot his effort
clear. Their pressure paid off in the 18th minute thanks to
Balotelli, who swept home a fine volley from inside the area
following a cross from Pablo Zabaleta.
They were cutting Salzburg open and made an unsuccessful appeal for
a penalty in the 32nd minute. James Milner found Balotelli with a
defence-splitting pass and the striker homed in on goal. However
Schiemer was able to get in a challenge that left his opponent on
the floor but referee Libor Kovarik deemed it was fair. Then
Zabaleta picked out Shaun Wright-Phillips in the 40th minute and he
tested Tremmel from distance with an instinctive shot. City should
have added a second a minute before half-time following another
quick break. Johnson sent Milner scampering away but he steered his
effort the wrong side of the post.
City were looking to build on their lead and Wright-Phillips got
clear in the 48th minute. Jo and Balotelli were waiting in the area
but the delivery from the winger was poor and it was cleared to
safety. The referee then angered the visitors by allowing play to
continue in the 55th minute after Simon Cziommer was left pole-axed.
Balotelli came close to extending City's lead as Cziommer lay
prostrate on the pitch. However he was able to clamber off the
stretcher and make his way to the dressing room.
City squandered another good chance of adding a second goal in the
58th minute after a sweeping move. Jerome Boateng and
Wright-Phillips linked up but Balotelli's powerful effort ended up
in the side-netting. Then Milner cleared the bar with a 20-yard shot
after being set up by Johnson before they eventually extended their
Balotelli scored his second goal from close range following a ball
from Vieira after Johnson had won possession. He almost completed
his hat-trick a minute but again his effort found the side netting.
Balotelli was given a standing ovation when he was replaced by
Emmanuel Adebayor in the 71st minute.
And City made it 3-0 seven minutes later following a fine individual
effort from Johnson. He skipped past three dispirited Salzburg
players before finding the corner with his shot as City march on.
Man City Given, Boateng, Toure (Richards 81), Lescott, Zabaleta,
Wright-Phillips, Vieira, Milner, Adam Johnson, Balotelli (Adebayor
Subs Not Used: Hart, Kolarov, Barry, Silva, De Jong.
Goals: Balotelli 18, 65, Adam Johnson 78.
SV Red Bull Salzburg Tremmel, Schiemer, Sekagya, Afolabi,
Hinteregger (Svento 46), Mendes Da Silva (Augustinussen 67),
Hierlander, Leitgeb, Cziommer (Alan 57), Jantscher , Boghossian.
Subs Not Used: Walke, Zarate, Ngwat-Mahop, Offenbacher.
Booked: Afolabi, Boghossian, Sekagya.
Ref: Libor Kovarik (Czech Rep).